Jakymiw receives two major grant awards

Andrew Jakymiw, Ph.D.
Andrew Jakymiw, Ph.D.

Andrew Jakymiw, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the College of Dentistry’s Oral Biology department, recently received two major grant awards to fund his research aimed at developing RNA intereference (RNAi)-based therapies for the treatment of oral cancer.

In July 2008, he was awarded a three-year, $375,000 new investigator research grant from the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program at the Florida Department of Health. The intent of this grant mechanism is to foster development of new Florida-based investigators so that they can undertake independent research and compete for national research funding. The program has a special interest in efforts to improve research and/or treatment through greater participation in clinical trial networks, and efforts to reduce the impact of cancer on disparate groups.

In September 2008, Jakymiw received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) “Pathway to Independence” award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). This is a career development award that provides up to five years of support consisting of two phases. The initial phase provides one to two years of mentored support at $97,200 a year, followed by up to three years of independent support contingent on securing an independent tenure-track or equivalent research position, with funding of $249,000 a year.

The primary, long-term goal of the Pathway to Independence Award program is to increase and maintain a strong cohort of new, talented NIH-supported independent investigators. The program facilitates a timely transition from a mentored postdoctoral research position to a stable independent research position with independent NIH or other independent research support at an earlier stage than is currently the norm.

Jakymiw earned his bachelor’s in biochemistry in 1996, and his doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2002, from the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Jakymiw joined the college in 2002 as a postdoctoral associate in Dr. Edward Chan’s laboratory. In 2007 he became a research assistant professor in Oral Biology.

More information on Jakymiw’s research
Human head and neck cancer, including oral cancer, primarily rely on classical forms of treatments including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy or a combination of these methods. Unfortunately, these treatments have not significantly improved the outcome of the disease. Therefore, new treatment strategies are needed. As a result, the goal of the two studies will be to develop a new treatment for oral cancer based on a process called RNA interference (RNAi). RNAi is a process that can be used to specifically target and inhibit genes in living organisms and can potentially be adapted to treat cancer. In recent years, RNAi has shown great promise as a therapy and is currently being developed for multiple clinical applications.

There is increasing evidence that aberrant RNAi machinery expression is linked to cancer. Therefore, the NIH/NIDCR sponsored study will elucidate the molecular causes of oral cancer in relation to the RNAi biology and address the feasibility of applying RNAi-based therapeutics for the treatment of diseases originating in the oral cavity, with a focus on oral cancer. The Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research award will center more on determining effective delivery strategies of RNAi-based therapeutic molecules into oral cancer cells and tissues.

The long-term research goals of these two studies will be to develop RNAi into an effective therapy for oral cancer. The significance of these studies are that they will advance progress towards cures for oral cancer by not only shedding new insights into the molecular causes of oral cancer and testing the practicality of applying RNAi towards the treatment of this disease, but they will also help determine the most effective way of delivering the therapeutic agen